North Notts

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale

How North Notts CAMRA was formed.

It has been reported elsewhere that North Notts Branch of CAMRA was formed in 1981, it was actually formed two years earlier in 1979. Four young men in their early twenties and late teens had been members of Doncaster Branch which covered a wide area as far as Goole in the north and the Bassetlaw area to the south. We were keen in those days and felt that Retford and Worksop needed a separate identity. Howard Bacon, Dave Gilson, Paul Sexton and the sadly departed Graeme Davison arranged a series of meetings in the Turks Head, Retford to “test support”. The response was tremendous and well beyond our expectations. A decision was soon made to form the Branch. Other stalwarts of the Branch and Committee in those fledgling years included Mick keeling, Mark Clark, Ian Beattie, Carol Warburton and Simon Burgess again sadly no longer with us.

Remember, these were the days long before the micro brewing revolution and the National and Regional Breweries were still pursuing a policy of kegging and pasteurising although they were beginning to recognise the growing stature of CAMRA at national and local level and this backward policy was levelling out. The Branch was unashamedly Retford biased in those early years much to the annoyance of Mark who provided the lone Worksop voice. Retford was served reasonably well with Real Ale. We had five Home Ales pubs, with The Ship (now Rum Runner) and The Joiners serving the better offerings. Wards Sheffield best bitter was supplied by Turks Head and Black Boy and Bass Charrington served Brew Ten best enjoyed in the Flying Scotsman. The New Sun served beer from Darleys of Thorne which was a popular beer for us. Hand pumps had been removed from most pubs during this era and beer was mainly dispensed by electric meter but in 1981 Brian and Margorie Garforth arrived in The Albert and introduced Whitbread Castle Eden and Websters Yorkshire Bitter on hand pump! A little later The Market Hotel adopted a wider Real Ale policy. We were elated. We were regular campaigners. After all, we were young, free and most importantly single! All the aforementioned Breweries had kegging policies and we were keen to keep such fizz out of our pubs. Darleys did convert to bright beer in the New Sun for a brief period before reverting to cask. I like to think it was our influence that reversed the trend. Whitbread was the other National Brewery prevalent in our Town. They appeared to be a lost cause with their insipid bright Trophy Bitter and keg Tankard and it was a pleasant surprise when cask Castle Eden and Flowers IPA made a rare appearance in our area. Bass Charrington’s keg offering was Worthington E, Courage had Tavern and Home Ales 5 star keg. All were appalling and vastly inferior to the Craft keg beers of today but that’s a story for another day. We always tried to visit as many pubs as possible if only to show our faces to Licensees and customers so that they knew there was an active CAMRA presence. We did not neglect Worksop and the villages completely. I recall drinking excellent Home Ales in the Fisherman’s Arms, Worksop. Interestingly, Bass Charrington had a different Real Ale policy in Worksop to that of Retford. Stones as opposed to Brew Ten was the option in Worksop and a more popular brew. Best pubs serving Stones were The Greendale Oak and the French Horn. What a superb pub this was and a great shame it is now closed and unlikely to reopen as a pub.

By the mid 1980’s many of the original founders had moved on, married or lost interest. The Branch became more of a social club. New members arrived and gradually the active membership moved from Retford to Worksop. Breweries closed down or were taken over but CAMRA continued to thrive and with the relaxation of the tie came a greater choice of Real Ale. When the micro brewing revolution took hold it became even better. Up to the present day and despite the closure of many pubs in recent years due to many factors, there has never been a better time to drink quality Real Ale.

D Gilson, founder member.